SEO Basics: The Essential Knowledge for 2021
Have you ever wondered how the large search engines decide the order of the results pages? What about what these search results mean for your business’ website? Are the right people hearing about your brand, service, or offerings?
If you’re looking to outsource your SEO business objectives, check out the top SEO agencies in the United States or the top SEO agencies in Canada. This guide aims to help you understand the basics of what an SEO company can do for your business.
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What Are Search Engines?
A SERP, or search engine results page, is essentially a list of related web pages from all of the websites Google knows about. It contains what the search engine believes to be the most relevant answers to the original search query.
The SERP provides a mix of paid advertisements and organic results, frequently asked questions, and suggested reading for the 1.2 trillion searches that are made yearly.
What Is SEO?
Put simply, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a marketing strategy used to improve where you rank in the results of a search engine. For the purposes of this article, we will be talking about Google, where roughly 92% of all online search queries are made.
The Acronyms of Search Engine Marketing
You’ll begin to notice different acronyms when we talk about SEO. Here are the most important and frequently used terms for beginners just starting out in search.
Search Engine Marketing is the larger umbrella term referring to marketing strategies that relate to both the organic search results and paid search results. If your business has an online presence, some sort of SEM strategy should be in place.
Search engine optimization refers only to the organic search results, which do not include the paid advertisements at the top of the results.
Pay-per-click advertising focuses on the results on the search page that are designated as Ads. The company placing the ad will pay per individual click to attract potential customers.
The Search Engine Results Page is what is returned any time you search for something on a search engine. Google shows paid advertisements, featured snippets, organic results, and business listings among other items.
Satisfying Searcher Intent
Your future customers are making queries on Google. When your customers make these queries, you want to appear in the search results, but your customers will have a variety of needs throughout the sales journey.
Businesses can target different areas of the funnel and reach customers who have different needs by providing relevant, useful, and timely content to answer their questions.
Search Engine Ranking Factors
Search engines are constantly scanning the internet. Google uses bots to discover new pages, check older pages for updates, and follow links between pages. You can think of this process like a spider crawling through the internet page-by-page in order to determine what is connected.
Once the bot has crawled a website, the information related to that content is indexed. What this means is that Google constantly analyzes and categorizes your website’s information to understand it. Once Google understands your site, it can use your pages as search results.
It’s estimated that Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm. For any given search term, your website will be evaluated on the following criteria:
- Page Relevance: Is this website-related and relevant to the original query?
- Content Quality: The search engine chooses the highest quality piece of content.
- Page Usability: Is this page accessible, readable, and safe?
- User Settings: What does the user making the query typically search for and where?
Key Factors to Quality SEO
Throughout this guide, we’ll be focusing on SEO rather than the greater world of SEM. To increase your standing in the organic search results, your website needs a long-term quality-focused strategy.
On-Page vs. Off-Page
An important distinction in your optimization strategy, on-page SEO looks at the content on your website, while off-page SEO looks at how popular your site is when compared to other similar content.
Developing a Solid Technical Framework
These are the many technical aspects that ensure all of the other SEO work you’re doing is effective. The technical framework includes page speed, responsiveness, and the overall structure of your site.
Creating Quality Content
There are no shortcuts here. More complex nuances of keyword research aside, if you’re not creating content that people want to read or engage with, you’re not going to rank. Content should be digestible and answer the questions your audience has.
High Domain Authority Link Building
Perfectly structured websites with incredible content still need quality backlinks. When another site links to your content, Google sees that your website is useful, relevant, and high quality, which increases your domain authority online.
While the details of the secret sauce Google uses to decide on a rank position aren’t exactly known, it comes down to E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Your content is judged based on its ability to be thorough, complete, useful, and structured.
Expertise is evaluated on the level of skill or knowledge there in a specific skill. Formal experience and qualifications and life experience both provide value in expertise. The user experience or technical speed of your website doesn’t affect this aspect.
Authority comes down to reputation. When others find your website to be a good source of information on a topic, the authority of that site improves. It’s all relative. You may have excellent authority for a certain set of topics but none on another.
Trust can be achieved through creating accurate content that is true and updated. Sufficient information about the author of an article or citing trustworthy sources will also contribute to your trustworthiness score.
White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO
You may have heard about White Hat vs Black Hat SEO practices. White hat consists of natural links, building a great brand, researching and strategizing keywords, and an overall focus on content quality, there will be people trying to cheat the system with black hat methods.
Google is constantly updating its crawlers to penalize strategies that use hidden text, sneaky redirects, or irrelevant backlinks to generate traffic. It’s best to stick to the white hat techniques and avoid questionable practices that are against Google’s terms, such as paying for links.
Tracking, Measurement, and Tools
There is an overwhelming amount of information out there about the best SEO tips, tricks, and best practices. Depending on your needs, you may need to hire an SEO expert, but if you’re still in the process of making a decision, it’s a good idea to make sure your website is set up in Google Analytics and Google Search Console to collect usable data for your newly hired contractor or agency to utilize.
Google offers a free web analytics service, which allows site owners to look at detailed information about visitors to their website. It collects valuable user behavioral information which can be used to shape marketing strategy. Google even offers a free analytics course for anyone interested in learning more about the basics.
- Who is using this website, and how long are they staying on each page?
- How are people finding this website? Why?
Google Search Console
While Google Analytics shows valuable data about the incoming traffic to your website, Google Search Console provides information about keyword intelligence. Search Console allows you to see what people are searching on Google to get to your website.
- What are the best-performing keyword queries?
- Is the technical structure of my website healthy?
Remember, this data comes straight from Google, so it gives you valuable insights into the health of your website and the intent of its visitors.
SEO is a growing and changing industry, but long gone are the days where good websites made it to the front page of Google without some sort of strategic thought. Optimizing your website on and off the page is imperative to moving up in the rankings.